Nature identical and other mysterious ingredients.

It’s a couple of hours before dinner and my stomach is rumbling. I bypass the chocolate (very hard to do – more power to me) and opt for a healthier “baked, not fried” snack. It’s progress considering I was once known as the “toxic avenger” when it came to my diet.

As I’m munching away on what is supposed to taste like pizza flavoring, but oddly enough tastes like no pizza I’ve ever eaten, I peruse the ingredients panel.

E1400, E1442, E481, E420, E330, E100, E160C, E341, E500 and Nature Identical. If the E’s weren’t unsettling enough, the “nature identical” certainly piqued my curiosity.

Nature Identical flavor? What gives?

I’m not a health nut by any means, but I am interested in the impact production of food has on the wider environment. I’m growing in awareness that my diet isn’t all about me.

If you’re trying to track down these number ingredients – brace yourself, you may be in for a shock. A great resource I found for identifying and learning a little more about the compounds these numbers represent is at Food Info.

Vegans have even bigger challenges with coloring, preservative and flavoring numbers as they can sometimes represent compounds derived from animals. If you’re a vegan and looking for a quick reference chart, the site also has an Animal Origin list here. .

Back to my faux pizza snacks, here’s how they stacked up.

E1400 – Dextrins 
E1442 -Alkaline treated starch
E481 – Sodium stearoyl lactate
E420 – Sorbitol
E330 – Citric acid
E100 – Curcumin
E160C – (Paprika) extract
E341 – Calcium orthophosphates
E500 – Sodium carbonate

Nothing particularly nasty in there aside from the possibility of E481 being animal derived (but I’m not vegan) and E341 likely coming from phosphate mining – but reading up on how some of the other “E’s” used commonly in foods are made really makes me wonder about the production processes behind so much of what we eat. This isn’t just in terms of human health, but the side effects on the environment – the energy expended in creating these flavors, colors and preservatives, waste products from the production etc. – it just seems so excessive.

Nature identical ingredients

The “Nature Identical” ingredients are another story. Nature identical means chemically identical to natural flavourings but are synthetically created. Supposedly they are identical in molecular structure as the comparable flavor found in nature and the body cannot distinguish between them.

So *what* chemicals and processes were used in my snacks to create these “nature identical” flavors and why aren’t they specified? Would it be a chemical shopping list even longer than all the “E’s” in the product mentioned above?

This is a really similar situation with other products such as laundry detergents, hair products and perfumes whereby certain ingredients and components don’t need to be specified as they constitute trade secrets. I’m all for companies protecting their intellectual property if they can provide solid assurances that the secret ingredients aren’t particularly harmful to health and environment.

I think my “baked, not fried” snacks days may be over. Perhaps this is a little thing, but it’s lots of little things mixed with big things that have brought our planet to the mess it’s in today… and this is certainly one I have control over. 

I used to think that people who ate solely organic food were a little over the top; but I’m really starting to understand just how toxic to the environment many of our foods have become.

I’m starting to look into snack alternatives aside from raw fruit that don’t have a huge environmental footprint or seem more at home in a laboratory. I came across one a few minutes ago lurking in our cupboards that I had been actively avoiding – Goji Berries; also known as Chinese Wolfberries. No colors, preservatives or flavorings (nature identical or otherwise); just sun-dried – and incredibly tasty!

I’d certainly be very interested in hearing your own recommendations. If you have a low impact tasty snack tip, please share it with us all below!